Sugar City Con 2015

I got to spend a weekend hanging out at a convention with Lani Tupu (Captain Crais from Farscape), Paul Eiding (man of a thousand voices, including Max Tennyson from Ben 10), Tom Taylor (author of comics such as The Deep and Injustice: Gods Among Us) and a bunch of other comic book creators. Way cool!

Oh yeah… I was also a guest at this convention along with the aforementioned famous people. I’m still coming to terms with that… I was a guest at the same event as a bunch of really famous people. So there I was trying to keep a cool calm professional exterior as I squee-ed on the inside. Well, that was the plan. Not sure I succeeded. :-)

What was the convention? I hear you ask. Sugar City Con! It was held at the Mackay Showgrounds in Queensland. It was a well-run event that ticked over like clockwork, organised by the nicest bunch of people you could possibly imagine. [Waves to Craig, Toni-Lee, Grant, Mark, Peter, Luke, Sharon, Ben and the others.]

I had a BLAST! Seriously… an absolute BLAST!

Now, I should probably point out that I didn’t spend the entire weekend stalking the other guests. I did perform some guestly duties as well. I did a Q&A session hosted by the wonderfully well-informed Sharon M Johnston, who must have done some deep digging in cyberspace to come up with some of her questions. Chatting after the session, we discovered that we had been published together in an anthology a few years ago — Basics of Life, published by the Australian Literature Review in 2011. It’s a small world!

I also conducted a writing workshop for kids, signed heaps of books and posed for lots of photos in my TARDIS jacket (my presence was actually redundant… it was the jacket people wanted to photograph!).

A HUGE thank you to the organisers of this event for inviting me. ‘Twas such an honour!

And now for some pics…

And for those of you who may have missed my earlier posts, here’s the cheesy vid I made to promote my participation…

Oh, and the outtakes…

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Book Week 2015

Book Week (and the weeks surrounding it) tends to be a busy time for kids’ authors in Australia. Lots of talking about BOOKS! And, of course, the opportunity to meet readers. Great fun!

Thank you to all the schools and libraries that have hosted me over the last couple of months. The enthusiasm of kids who love reading is what I love most about being a kids’ author. And I consider it a privilege to work with schools in encouraging this love of reading.

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Mega Exciting YOU CHOOSE News

I’m doing a happy dance! Why? Because I’ve got two bits of exciting YOU CHOOSE news to announce today. Whether these morsels of info are as thrilling for you as they are for me remains to be seen… but I’m pretty over the moon about them. So, here goes…

[insert drumroll]

YOU CHOOSE Books 1-4 will be released in two special Flip Me! editions in December — just in time for Christmas shopping. :-) The first will contain The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove and Mayhem at Magic School, and the second will have Maze of Doom and The Haunting of Spook House. I used to love this style of two-in-one book as a kid — reading one story, then flipping it over to read the next. Very cool!

And now for announcement two…

[insert another drumroll… oh, what the hey… let’s throw in a fanfare as well]

There will be another two YOU CHOOSE books in 2016. I’ve been given the go-ahead to write Books 9 and 10 in the series. I am so excited about this, that I am bouncing up and down in my seat and I can barely keep my fingers on the keyboard as I’m typing. :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

I’ve got working titles and brief synopses all ready to go. But I can’t write them just yet, as I’m working on another series at the moment. I can’t tell you much about this other series, except that I’m working on it now, as it hasn’t been officially announced. But the second I’ve finished with it, I’ll be working on YOU CHOOSE 9 and 10.

Gloriously busy times ahead! Bring it on!

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Happy Publication Day to YOU CHOOSE books 7 and 8. Super Sports Spectacular and Trapped in the Games Grid hit the stores today.

To celebrate I baked a Soufflé Cheesecake. Okay… so it may have fallen apart when I took it out of the cake dish, but it still tasted YUM!

I made it yesterday, so that it would be ready to have with my cup of coffee this morning. [I may have had a test piece yesterday… just to make sure it was okay, of course.]

And so as I sit in my office, coffee in one hand, fork-full of cake in the other, my latest work-in-progress spread out on the desk in front of me… I imagine these two books sitting on shelves across the country, eagerly awaiting someone to pick them up and read them. I feel very fortunate to be in this position.

Now, go away and let me eat my cake. :-)

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In the news

My youngest daughter and I were in the Herald Sun on Friday 31 July…

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Fanboy Alert!

Me in 1984

Okay… so I’ve been a die-hard, nerdy/geeky fanboy for a lot longer than I’ve been a professional author. Way before my first book hit the shelves in 1999, I was attending sci-fi conventions, joining fan clubs and dressing up in costume. I wrote appalling Doctor Who fan fic (bashed out on a manual typewriter) and drew even worse fan art.

Me, 30 years later, in 2014

So when my fanboyishness (is there even such a word) finally gets the opportunity to collide with my pro-authorishness (I definitely know there is no such word), I know I’m headed for a whole lot of AWESOME FUN!

I’ve been invited as a guest to Sugar City Con in Mackay (Qld). It’s going to be held over the weekend of 29/30 August at the Mackay Showgrounds.

I’m a little overwhelmed at being included amongst their amazing lineup of guests, which include US voice-over actor Paul Eiding (Ben 10, Transformers), comic book artist and writer Becky Cloonan (Gotham Academy, Swamp Thing) and New York Times bestselling author, playwright and screenwriter Tom Taylor (Star Wars Blood Ties: Boba Fett is Dead). But as a big Farscape fan I’m most excited about meeting Lani Tupu, who played Captain Crais, as well as providing the voice of Pilot.

The organizers of Sugar City Con (or SCC, to those in the know) asked me to put together a little intro vid to help with event promotion. So, of course, the first thing I did was rifle through my costume cupboard to pull out a whole batch of convention outfits I’ve worn over the years. :-) Here’s the super-cheesy result…

Shooting the vid was heaps of fun… although I did almost choke on that toy mouse. Don’t believe me? Check out the outtakes…

And yes, I know… I’ve misspelled my own name in the video titles. But it’s a compilation of outtakes — so that mistake actually seems rather appropriate. In fact, it was deliberate. No really… honestly… I did it on purpose. ;-)

Anyway… I am counting down the days to Sugar City Con. It’s gonna be a BLAST!

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Lit Blast on the Sunshine Coast

Fun! Informative! Educational! Literary! Overwhelming! Awesome! A total BLAST!

What am I talking about?

Voice On the Coast Youth Literature Festival!

I was lucky enough to spend three days at this wonderful festival, organised by Immanuel Lutheran College in conjunction with The University of the Sunshine Coast.

Although there were public events either side, the main part of the festival was the two student days. Kids from surrounding schools descended upon the grounds of The University of the Sunshine Coast, ready to immerse themselves in the world of reading and writing. Each day, students attended four sessions of talks and workshops, choosing from the many authors and illustrators in attendance. Each day I presented two talks and conducted one workshop.

Having arrived on the Sunshine Coast the day before the school sessions started — albeit a little over an hour late (thank you Jetstar) — I was able to attend two sessions presented by author/illustrator Mark Wilson at the Noosaville Library. This was part of the festival’s additional public events. His first session was a talk to grown-ups about his approach to illustrating. His second session was a drawing workshop with kids. Mark is such a natural storyteller — his tales of war and courage, history and family, people and endangered animals were mesmerizing. He had both adults and children hanging on his every word.

The first day of the festival proper, had both primary and secondary students in attendance. I presented a talk about writing stuff-ups to the secondary students, and a more general talk to the primary students — focusing on my transition from reluctant reader to avid reader, and how that related to my current series of books, YOU CHOOSE. And I conducted a workshop about character development for the high school kids.

The second day was exclusively for primary students. I presented two sessions of my primary talk and conducted an Introduction to Writing workshop.

All of the sessions went so well. The students were engaged and excited; they were enthusiastic and creative; they were a joy to speak to.

Each day I had one free session, so I took the opportunity to see other presenters strut their stuff. On the first day I went to hear Sean Williams speak about his writing experiences. Witty and entertaining, he kept his large audience completely enthralled. When, towards the end of his session, he announced that the audience was going to help him plan a story out on the whiteboard, I froze. I had intended the same interactive exercise for my sessions. Immediately I feared that any student attending Sean’s presentation and then coming to one of mine would assume that I was just stealing his ideas. But I breathed a sigh of relief as Sean began… approaching the exercise in a completely different way from me. He and his audience ended up with a serial killer comedy called “The Ex-ecution” — a wronged girl seeks revenge upon her ex-boyfriend, but unfortunately she ends up killing lots of other people instead. Meanwhile the boy accidentally kills himself, thus depriving her of the satisfaction of revenge. ’Twas a bestseller in the making!

On the second day, I sat in on Oliver Pommavanh’s writing workshop. It was one of the most entertaining workshop’s I’ve ever seen. Oliver taught his students how to lie and how to get away with murder — all in the name of literature. Oh, and he shot at his students with a fart gun. The session was an inspired mix of writing tips, writing exercises and standup comedy.

The festival was officially launched by Clive Palmer at a dinner on the first night. Mr Palmer spoke with great passion about the importance of literature and education.

The evening continued with more speakers. Lorelei Vashti and Benjamin Law, both published authors and former Immanuel Lutheran College students, exchanged some amusing banter and got thing off to a wonderful start.

Then poet and rapper Charlie Thomson (AKA The Educator) performed thought-provoking rhymes, where he not only defended the relevance of Shakespeare to modern audiences, but also managed to slip in some wonderful pop culture references — including one of my favourite 80s films The Boy Who Could Fly. :-)

Finally, Sean Williams took to the podium to deliver an impassioned speech about the dangers of literature — an addictive pastime seducing our youth away from far more worthwhile pursuits. Perhaps one of the most insidious dangers Sean described, was the potential progression from user (reader) to supplier (author). A brilliantly witty speech.

The festival ended for me on a somewhat rushed note. I had ten minutes from the end of my last session to make it to the connecting bus that would get me to the airport. I made it to the bus on time. I got to the airport with lots of time to spare. And then my flight was delayed (thanks again, Jetstar).

There was a tense moment at the airport when my shoulder bag had to go through the x-ray machine a second time… and then came the request to search it. The x-ray had showed up a suspicious looking object in the contents. Smiles, laughter and bad jokes ensued when the search revealed my toy sonic screwdriver.

“Why are you flying?” asked one security guard. “Shouldn’t you be in your TARDIS?”

“Yeah,” added the second guard, “and where’s K9?”

I love that Doctor Who has become such an ingrained part of our pop culture that random strangers can instantly identify a sonic screwdriver and know what a TARDIS is. :-)

Many thanks to the festival organisers for inviting me to be part of Voices on the Coast. It was an extraordinary experience and I am honoured to have been included amongst such a talented bunch of literary creators. And congratulations to everyone who worked on the festival. You Sunshine Coast people certainly know how to throw one heck of a great lit fest!

And now, here are some random pics…

Belinda Murrell, Kathryn Apel and George
Belinda Murrell and George









“Oh the places you’ll go” panel: Lorelei Vashti, Pat Flynn, Peter Carnavas and Dave Hackett
Kathryn Apel, Susanne Gervay and Angela Sunde
George, Elise Hurst, Oliver Phommavanh, Dave Hackett and Sean Williams
Clive Palmer and George


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The X-Files — excitement and fear

IDW Publishing in the US is releasing three volumes of short stories based on the television series The X-Files. These anthologies are being edited by New York Time best-selling author Jonathan Maberry. The first book, Trust No One, is set for release on 28 July 2015. Volumes two and three will follow in 2016.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, firstly I’m a bit of a fan of The X-Files and I love short stories. Having the two combined is pretty cool, and I am very much looking forward to reading them.

Secondly, I’ve written a story for volume three. :-) Titled “An Eye For An Eye”, it’s set during the first season of the series.

Writing for a franchise like this is both an exciting and scary thing. Exciting, because I finally get to play in a sandbox that I have admired from afar. Scary, because there is such an excellent body of work to attempt to fit into.

The fear came first. Would I be able to write something that lives up to the legacy of the series and the expectations of other fans? I overcame this fear with research.

Getting the opportunity to write this story gave me the excuse to go out and buy the series on DVD (hooray for tax deductable expenses). I then binge-watched the entire first season to remind myself of the characters, their nuances and their world. It was a fascinating experience. I had forgotten about Mulder’s obsession with slides. He was always showing slides to Scully. And there was more humour than I remembered. The banter between Scully and Mulder was dry and witty and priceless. Immersing myself in season one was invaluable… it dispelled the fear and engaged the excitement.

I loved writing this story so much.

But now the excitement has worn off and the fear has returned. I wrote this story in December 2014, but publication is still a fair distance away in 2016. And I can’t help worrying about things going wrong. What if my story isn’t good enough? What if the anthology gets cancelled? What if my story gets dropped? What if? What if?

A writer’s life is full of uncertainties. And doubts. And fears. In the larger scheme of my writing career, this story is a small thing. But my fanboy nature can’t keep it in perspective. As a fan, this experience is such a BIG THING! So I will have difficulty sleeping, I will fret and I will doubt until I actually hold that anthology in my hands some time in 2016.

And then I shall be excited all over again.

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Lots of lovely reviews have been floating around about the YOU CHOOSE books, so I thought I’d share some recent ones here on my blog.

I’ll start with my favorite review. From the Weekend Advocate in NSW, it focuses on nostalgia …

The ReadPlus website has published reviews of quite a number of my books. The latest review from Sue Warren is for the two current YOU CHOOSE titles, Alien Invaders from Beyond the Stars and Night of the Creepy Carnival

“George has cleverly taken all the great aspects of gaming and transformed them into book form where readers can challenge themselves to achieve the end goal. While primarily aimed at Middle Primary to Upper Primary these can be enjoyed by readers of all ages and certainly, if you have readers who struggle these would be a superb choice as the level of engagement and the appeal of the subject matter are perfect.”

Read the full review.

Earlier this year ReadPlus also published a review by Barbara Braxton of the two previous titles, Maze of Doom and The Haunting of Spook House. This review focuses on the potential educational aspects of the books…

“The appeal and importance of gaming within the formal education setting is becoming the focus of a lot of research and literature and this series provides a great foundation to actively engage and explore options.”

“As well as offering an engaging read, skilled teachers could use these books as models for an absorbing, integrated project that would draw in their writers, their illustrators, their mathematicians, their computer experts, and their gamers to create something new that accentuates the need for a team, encourages negotiation and compromise as well as the skills of seeing things from another perspective and looking for alternatives, and perhaps, even, the concept of empathy.”

And it concludes with:

“So glad this format is back on the reading agenda of the younger readers in my life.”

Read the full review.

There have also been some lovely comments on social media. On FaceBook, Rochelle Llewelyn Nicholls said:

“I read the seminal Choose Your Own Adventure books while at school in the 80s. Your books have brought those wonderful concepts back into vogue with the kids at the library where I work now. Some of them read nothing else! George, your books have been a crucial part of our strategy to engage kids aged 8-12 and tempt them away from digital distractions back to good old print books. The interactive nature of the books makes them great for group reading sessions and they are just scary enough for the kids to think they are cool.”

And finally, there’s this video review from Hillcrest Christian College, for the two upcoming YOU CHOOSE books, Super Sports Spectacular and Trapped in the Games Grid — it’s on their FaceBook page.

ADDENDUM — 7 July 2015
And this lovely review from an 8-year-old showed up in the Western Australian. :-)

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Let there be CAKE!

It’s publication day! Books 5 and 6 in the YOU CHOOSE series have hit the bookstore shelves. With the start of this series last year, I decided that I needed a little publication day tradition. And so, on each publication day I’ve gone out to buy a small cake or pastry, photographing said culinary delight with a candle and the books in question, so that I can spam the Internet. Then, of course, I eat the cake. :-)

Today, I’ve got an Opera Slice from Jacques Depot de Pain. YUM!

And so, as I stuff my face with heavenly layers of pastry, chocolate and coffee cream, let me bid welcome to Night of the Creepy Carnival and Alien Invaders from Beyond the Stars. I wish you both a long life of being well read and enjoyed.

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REAL Award Shortlist

You Choose: The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove has made it onto the shortlist for the REAL awards in the category of “Fiction For Younger Readers”. REAL stands for Reading & Enjoying Australian Literature. Books on the REAL shortlist have been nominated by kids across the country. And the shortlist is then voted on by kids in a series of separate state-based awards — the YABBAs (Young Australians Best Book Awards) in Victoria; the KOALAs (Kids Own Australian Literature Awards) in New South Wales; the COOL Awards (Canberra’s Own Outstanding List Awards) in the ACT; and the KROC Awards (Kids Reading Oz Choice Awards) in the Northern Territory.

What an amazing set of acronymous awards!

I am delighted and honoured and excited for my book to be on the “Fiction For Younger Readers” shortlist along with…

  • Alice Miranda in Japan by Jacqueline Harvey
  • Andy Roid and the Avalanche of Evil by Felice Arena
  • Billie B Brown: The Bully Buster by Sally Rippin (illustrated by Aki Fukuoka)
  • Don’t Look Now Book 4 by Paul Jennings & Andrew Weldon
  • EJ12: Time to Shine by Susannah McFarlane
  • Our Australian Girl: Meet Grace by Sofie Laguna (illustrated by Lucia Masciullo)
  • Our Australian Girl: Meet Letty by Alison Lloyd (illustrated by Lucia Masciullo)
  • Pizza Cake by Morris Gleitzman
  • The Lost Circus: The Last Elephant by Justin D’Ath

Such wonderful company!

The full shortlist of all categories is available from the YABBA website.

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You Choose 8

Time for another cover reveal — You Choose 8: Trapped in the Games Grid. Artist James Hart has picked up on the TRON influences to create this rather AWESOME illustration…

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The Somerset Experience

It’s one of those literary events that all kids’ authors talk about. It’s one that everyone wants to attend. And this year I was lucky enough to be invited along as a speaker to the Somerset Celebration of Literature.

Held on the Gold Coast by Somerset College, it is open to students from other schools, with kids in their thousands flocking to hear authors share their writing experiences. Three days of literary goodness with over 30 authors.

Did it live up to my expectations? No — it surpassed them.

It got off to a wet start with the Gold Coast hitting its visiting authors with a downpour. But as the rain dried up, the heat rose and the humidity climbed… higher and higher and ever higher. My smaller sessions were in air-conditioned classrooms. Cool! But my two larger sessions were in the Great Hall — up on a stage. Everyone knows that heat rises. I was literally dripping with sweat when I finished my sessions there.

A little uncomfortable, yes. But also memorable. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. The perspiration-drenched performances certainly contributed to the whole rock-star experience!

And really, for three days, that’s exactly how I felt… like a Rock Star! Not that I actually have any idea what real rock stars experience (I suspect there may be more alcohol, illicit substances and room trashing involved. Oh… and probably some music.). But in my mind it was akin to what it might be like for them. Sweat-soaked appearances on stage. Cheering crowds. Long autograph queues. Photo requests. Enthusiastic fans. And the festival bookstore almost sold out of my You Choose books — only two left after the dust had settled.

As you may have guessed, I had a ball. The students were engaged, enthusiastic and intelligent, asking great questions and getting involved in discussions. I also met a whole bunch of wonderful teachers and librarians. They too had great questions, and I had some wonderful post-session conversations about reading, writing and teaching.

There were also, of course, the other authors. I got to meet writers whose work I admire. I had fun green-room chats. I got to hang out with my fellow Random House authors. And, when I wasn’t presenting myself, I attended some of their sessions. Wow! So many different styles, so many wonderful speakers — from RA Spratt’s theatricality to Jen Storer’s simple and straightforward connection to her audience. I wish I had been able to attend more sessions, as there is always so much to learn from other presenters.

There are two speakers that I really must single out.

Melissa Keil, author of Life in Outer Space and The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, spoke about her writing with the aide of a comprehensive Powerpoint presentation. I’ve always avoided using Powerpoint for fear of speaking to the slides rather than the audience. Melissa’s presentation showed how to use Powerpoint effectively while still engaging with your audience. At no point were the slides distracting. In fact, they added a lot to what Melissa was saying. And hearing her speak about geek culture, which is an important part of her writing, inspired me to head straight for the bookstore after her session. Mind you, at one point I almost jumped to my feet and raced to the front of the room to argue with her about the latest season of Doctor Who. Her opinion differs from mine and it took great restraint on my part to stay silent in my seat. :-) Well… in my humble opinion Series 9 was the best since Series 4. And Capaldi is brilliant in the role. Do you hear me, Melissa? BRILLIANT! BRILLIANT, I say! [Deep breath. Stay calm. Move on.]

Christine Bongers, author of Henry Hoey Hobson, Intruder and Dust, was completely different. Speaking about her life, and growing up in rural Australia, she related it all back to writing and to the shared experiences of her audience. She spoke with such laid-back authenticity, making her life and writing so accessible. She is a natural storyteller and her off-the-cuff style, no doubt making each audience member feel as if she was talking directly to them, was so engaging. Sitting at the back of the room, I could see kids nodding to each other and identifying with what she said. Pure gold! Again, I ran straight to the bookstore.

Presentations weren’t the only things on the agenda. There was a massive Prologue Party on the first night, which was open to the public, with free lollies, entertainment AND fireworks. There was an author meet & greet dinner before the festival and an amazing Long Table Dinner, with an evocative and entertaining speech from Icelandic author and academic Kári Gíslason, to finish things up. Oh my goodness, I still dream about the Table of Cheese at that final dinner. I kid you not, there was an ENTIRE TABLE filled with an assortment of cheese. (Damn… now I’m drooling on my keyboard.)

But the highlight for me was the Student Dinner, which allowed students some more personal interaction with the authors. Students were divided up into groups of 6-10 and sat at a table with an author of their choice for a carb-loaded dinner of pizza and pasta (Note: There was a salad on each table as well, but I don’t think so much as a single lettuce leaf was consumed.) with ice-cream and sprinkles for dessert. And then, 45 minutes to plan and rehearse a performance on an assigned topic, that was then presented before all attendees. It was a gloriously creative and chaotic experience, with added randomness. My group’s topic was “The Alien”, which led to a morality tale about alienation that still managed to include mind control, an arguing two-head creature, an irate Frenchman and, of course, Doctor Who. So much FUN!

Personal festival highlights for me included fellow Doctor Who fans (students, teachers and authors) seeking me out for chats; a plastic sword versus toy sonic screwdriver confrontation at the Prologue Party; and my two student minders Xenavee and Anneka. Each author had two students to look after them over the course of the event. With grace and good humour, Xenavee and Anneka made sure I was at my sessions on time, didn’t run overtime and didn’t get lost. AND at the end of it all, they gave me a present — Tim Tams and a chocolate Easter bunny. :-)

My Somerset experience was amazing! HUGE congratulations to the organisers!

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